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Ratings: is Liberty Media at risk?

The curtain falls on the 2022 Formula 1 season, and for Motorsport’s top category it is time to analyse the data collected during the year. 2022 was a year full of races, that allowed fans from all over the world to travel with the Circus to all the 22 races. With the boom in ratings due to the ‘Drive To Survive‘ series the audience reached by F1 has increased considerably, involving especially younger fans.

Ferrari’s promising start to the season had brought the ratings back up after two disappointing seasons (2020 and 2021). Ready to relive a wheel-to-wheel duel like last year, expectations on the championship fight were quite high. On one side a newly crowned world champion hungry for victory, on the other a driver with a dream: to bring the title back to Maranello. After many strategic mistakes, poor reliability and several points lost along the way, however, the public didn’t get the battle they have been waiting years for. Also RedBull’s clear supremacy, compared to Ferrari, affected the ratings from mid-season onwards. This domination was led by Max Verstappen who, this year alone, has crossed the finish line in first position fifteen times.

The promises made by Liberty Media to bring more action and improve the show on track were not entirely fulfilled. The new generation of cars, in fact, only started a new domination, this time signed by Verstappen’s Red Bull instead of Hamilton’s Silver Arrow.

(Max Verstappen al termine del Gran Premio del Messico 2022)

Audience in the first part of the season

The 2022 season kicked off with a Ferrari that performed suprisingly better than Red Bull, which seemed to be lacking in reliability. Verstappen and Pérez’s double retirement in the opening race and the Scuderia’s one-two kept more than 3.8 million viewers glued to their screens. An important result for Formula 1 because it recorded almost 30% more share compared to Sky’s average live broadcasts in 2021. Moreover, the Imola Grand Prix reached audience peaks unreached since the 2019 Italian GP. Ferrari’s good performance encouraged the public to keep watching Formula 1, a sport that for too many years had been branded as predictable and repetitive due to Mercedes’ long dominance.

(Charles Leclerc al termine del Gran Premio d’Austria 2022); crediti: @charles_leclerc su Instagram

The collapse of Ferrari’s performance and the consequent Red Bull hegemony, however, did not convince Italian viewers. With the exception of some Grands Prix, the impressive ratings recorded in the first part of the year decreased again. The audience got back to the averages of the past seasons. Only the fight for second place between Leclerc and Pérez raised the general interest, reaching 2.6 million viewers on Sunday in Abu Dhabi’s season finale.

How about next year?

With the announcement of the separation between Ferrari and Binotto, the Italian team now finds itself in a moment of crisis. With no guide ready to take over and the 2023 project now complete, the year ahead looks to be an uphill one for Ferrari. This does not help a Formula 1, since it needs competition between the top-teams in order to survive. There are many chances of entering a full-on RedBull era. The show, the mediatic core of F1, would indeed suffer from it. The data collected during the season, in fact, describe a sport in great growth during the first half of the year. Ferrari’s poor performance and Red Bull’s domination, however, made the audience shrink again. The real main resource of Formula 1, therefore, is the show.

Hoping to relive a hard-fought season like in 2021, the teams now have three months to refine their single-seaters. Ferrari’s task will be to regain internal order and bring on the grid a car capable of bothering Red Bull and Max Verstappen.

Giulianna Faliero

I've always been passionate about motorsport and Mult1formula allows me to share this passion of mine. Here I write mostly about Formula 2 and Formula 3 for both our Italian and international articles.

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